It’s not often we are able to tell you Folkestone & Hythe District Council are getting something right. But this is one of those rare moments to let you know that since the 3,400 Council Homes were brought back in house, in Oct 2020, the direction of travel in making tenants homes safe has been good, very good.
Much of the improvement achieved since Oct 2020, has been done under the trying conditions of Covid. The Housing Department team, lead by Assistant Director John Holman (pictured), should be applauded for all their hard work under difficult circumstances. Yes there’s a long way to go, but things have improved dramatically.
The Council took back responsibility for the management of its 3,400 Council homes and residents on 1st October 2020. This was due to major health and safety issues emerged at EKH last summer, and in September 2019 the four councils were issued notice that they had breached the Regulator of Social Housing’s Home Standard through the failings.
An initial audit review of Council Housing was undertaken in December 2020 at the request of management to give them a position statement on the work required to make the improvements which were necessary to make buildings safe for their tenants.
Since the completion of the review reported undertaken between Dec 2020 and March 2021 and given to the Audit & Governance on the 4th March 2021, There was only one substantial assurance and that was for gas safety, (see image below).
Since then housing officers of the Council have huge strides to improve the health and safety issues which needed addressing urgently.
On Thursday 29th July, the Audit & Governance Committee, will hear about the marked improvement across all assurance levels. This is mainly as a result of the improvements around housekeeping, and the implementation of a process for the regular inspection of all buildings with communal areas to ensure the ongoing safety for tenants occupying the 3,400 council homes.
With the exception of Fire Safety and Electrical Safety, all other areas reviewed have been given an improved assurance rating of Substantial for the following reasons:
Policies have been completely updated and subject to re-approval, references to the former EKH have been removed.
Policies and procedures are now in place around the storage of mobility scooters, PAT testing and also difficult to access properties.
Performance reporting remains accurate.
Gas safety compliance performance remains at or close to 100% compliance every month.
Lifts continue to be serviced at regular intervals.
Issues identified as part of the independent lift examination process are dealt with as soon as practical.
Robust procedures are now in place for ensuring that all buildings with communal areas are subject to an ongoing inspection routine.
Issues identified on the inspections are being recorded and tracked through to completion; which under East Kent Housing did not really happen.
Fire Safety has improved and the assurance rating of reasonable has been awarded. Reasons being around (but not limited to), recommencement of fire drills in sheltered schemes, introduction and commencement of a fire door inspection programme and the introduction of block inspections.
The reasons for the reasonable assurance as opposed to substantial assurance are due mainly to the levels of outstanding work in terms of fire prevention works identified through the Fire Risk Assessment’s, building zone plans and the replacement/repair of faulty fire doors. Some improvement is also necessary around the monitoring of the fire alarm servicing contractor.
Electrical safety has an assurance of reasonable rather than substantial due to the number of domestic properties without a current EICR certificate. Ongoing improvement is being reported each month, nonetheless, a low level of compliance in terms of domestic EICR’s was inherited from East Kent Housing, and as such it will take some time to clear the backlog of work.
The Assistant Director for Housing John Holman (pictured above) gave a presentation to the Folkestone & Hythe District and Parish Councils’ Joint Committee on the 15th July 2021, on the services and performance of the Council’s Housing Landlord service since 1 October 2020. It was open honest and transparent. A welcome change from the Council’s usual stance.
All 3,400 Council homes will be retrofitted to meet the Net Zero Carbon Agenda by 2050. This will cost between £68 to £100 million over 30 years.
John Holman and his whole team should rightly celebrate what they’ve achieved under challenging circumstances. We hope the improvements will continue as tenants and leaseholder of the Council’s 3,400 homes deserve safe, secure and warm homes, just like the rest of us.
The Shepway Vox Team
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